Saturday, July 6, 2013

Parting Shots and Starting Thoughts

My last night in Tibet I stayed in the shabbiest hotel - one star, and I'm surprised Zhangmu's Sherpa Hotel managed that! - I have ever had the misfortune of sleeping in.  Thank goodness I was so exhausted from the night before, or I might not have been able to sleep at all.  It was supposed to only cost me 100 kuai, but a bunch of Indian tourists got there before me and took all the cheap rooms, so instead I ended up in a more expensive one, which even after getting a discount from the proprietress was the same price as the 3-star place I stayed in Shigatse.
Zhangmu is one of the strangest towns I've ever visited.  It's the Chinese border town, and built going down the side of a ravine.  The Energizer asked me if it looked like Korea, and I had to admit that the buildings bore a strange resemblance to some that I'd seen in smaller Korean towns in the countryside.  She explained that there'd been Koreans settled here in the past.  The town itself wasn't much to look at, but the descent into it from the plateau was gorgeous.  It had slowly been getting greener, and then toward the top of the ravine turned to the most verdant mess of ground cover, with waterfalls breaking out of the rock at random intervals.  By the time we got to the town, there were trees and it was humid as hell.  The Energizer says this is what eastern Tibet looks like, over where it adjoins Chengdu.  Apparently a lot of Chinese tourists like to visit that region.

The next morning I made my third border crossing by land (which seems to me a lot more hassle than air crossings for some reason).  It took a long time to actually get down to immigration.  The streets of Zhangmu are narrow and clogged with tour buses and Nepali trucks.  After we got fairly close, our driver parked and said goodbye, then the Energizer and I went on down where seemingly MILLIONS of people, mostly Indian, were milling about in a rough semblance of a line.  The Energizer found me the back of the line (sort of) then went off for a while.  When she came back, she moved me to a group with some other Western tourists, which I was led to believe I'd been given permission to join, and then she went away again.  A few more minutes later she came back and ushered me to the front of the line.  Don't ask me how all this came to pass - my best guess is that she's so chipper and energetic - not to mention rare, because guiding seems to be more of a male occupation - that people just give her what she wants, because this was not the first time I saw her twist people to her will.  Somehow I went from the end of the line to through immigration before the people I'd been standing behind had moved ten feet.  And then she was waving me on my way across the bridge to Nepal.
Yes, we drove over that.
That was strange in and of itself.  When you get to the Nepal side, they just let you through.  There is no officer standing there checking everyone's credentials.  If I'd wanted to, I could have walked right past the visa office and no one would have stopped me (of course this might have proved problematic when I tried to LEAVE the country, but still).  They gave me my visa on the spot, and then I had to go find transportation to Kathmandu.  Lonely Planet said it would cost me 350 to ride the bus.  Even as early in the morning as it was (probably 10:30 when I left Tibet, but 8:15 when I entered Nepal...no, the bridge wasn't that long.  Tibet, as well as all of China, is on Beijing time, which means I've been suffering from a mild case of jetlag despite not having been on a plane in nearly two weeks) it was hot and humid, and I decided I'd take a jeep, if I could find one to share.  And it's a good thing I did.  For the second time in a week, the rain had caused road problems, and it was a little scary going over places where there'd been landslides, not to mention that the roads were so rough that I was NOT feeling well by the time I finally got to my hostel, the Monumental Paradise on Freak Street, at 4 that afternoon.  In fact, the roads were so crowded, and the air coming into the jeep so polluted from big trucks belching black smoke straight into the window, that I was worried that I was wrong, thinking that Nepal was going to be the best part of the trip.  Find out one way or the other tomorrow...

2 comments:

  1. This posting is probably what my whole trip would
    have been like if I had tried a trip like this.
    I bet you were looking for a Coke or Mountain Dew when you reached destination.

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    Replies
    1. I was definitely looking for a coke, but I think I was more desperate for ice cream - it is SO much hotter here than in Mongolia, or even than Tibet was!

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